Monday, January 22, 2007

Big Bother

I'm going to blame the weather for my month long writers block. It is, after all, hard to type when one's fingers are freezing. A man has to warm his fingers after all, and not have to spew comments as if they were going out of fashion.

Now let me point out that it wasn't as if I didn't have anything to write about. In fact, my dashboard is showing, at least, five incomplete posts that are just waiting for my finishing touch. The problem is, I've already lost interest in few of those topics and so 'finishing touches' have to wait.

So now what has dragged me out of my slumber? What has prompted me to draw the curtains on my lethargy and start scribbling again? Two words, and they are: big bother, err, I mean, big brother!

Everyone seems to be talking about it. Right from CNN and BBC to the cheesiest tabloids on the face of this earth. I don't need to reiterate that the controversy is all about the alleged racist remarks directed towards Shilpa Shetty, the bollywood actress, and how people are wondering whether or not Britain is a tolerant society because of what her fellow house-mates said to her.

Now I wish I could join the picket gang and join the chorus in condemning Danielle Lloyd, Jade Goody, Jack Tweed and say they are the worst thing to have happened to humanity since Klu Klux Klan found a new use for white-coloured hoods. But sadly, I cannot, and it's not because I endorse what they've said, on the contrary, I feel their words were stupid, ill-informed and, at times, bordering on the malicious.

My problem is with the nature of the show. Big Brother is not the type of programme that can be used as a yardstick for measuring... anything. And least of all, British tolerance. The programm's main objective is to titillate, excite and look for ways to push the programme ratings, that's all. It doesn't have a higher purpose, it is not and certainly not the best tool to measure social behaviour.

Confine a couple of people in a house for more than a month without contact with the outside world, and they are bound to crack and it doesn't require a rocket scientist to figure this out. People are bound to insult, get cranky, abusive, and if a huge prize money is at stake... oh yes, it will be a no holds barred slug fest. It is an unnatural environment and one cannot use experiences observed here to make a broader assessment.

Now I'm sure there are instances of racism in Britain, and I'm positive there are numerous Asians and Africans who may have suffered at the hands of rabid racists. It would be foolish to assume that racism doesn't exist in Britain, and that it did only in the history books. But this programme is a wrong starting point for this debate even though there are valid reasons to 'talk' about this issue.

But seriously, some of the talk going on seem to suggest that Britain is the ultimate racist country, and all other countries are a bunch of sensitive little angels. Excuse me for being somewhat sceptical but I find it hard to believe that any country could be immune from 'racist' nonsense... it's a worldwide phenomenon, buster, it's time we learn to face the truth.

But what's happening to Shilpa Shetty should be seen in a totally different context. The fact that she is young, beautiful and sassy might have helped in upping the sympathy factor, as well as her dignified behaviour while facing her antagonists. This doesn't, in any way, lessen the shame and humiliation she may have faced at the hands of these people, but, hey, this is a media event. And media events thrive on sensationalism. Besides, she is getting a lot of money for this 'experience'.

Now I don't know why an actress like Shilpa Shetty who has enjoyed reasonable success at the box office should have decided to join a group of has-beens and wannabes in the Big Brother contest. But it is safe to assume that after this huge controversy, and getting her name splashed across newspapers and TV channels across the world, she's become a household name all over the world.

And watching some of the clips on You Tube, I have to admit - sigh - that I was quite impressed with her performance. She did come across as level headed, mature and someone who knows her mind. Quite impressive when you consider that everyone thought it was Aishwarya Rai who was going to be the big bright hope for Bollywood.

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